Episode #40: Living Differently-From Marine To Mentor

Meet Tami McVay, business and lifestyle strategist dedicated to helping you find the courage, strength, and confidence you need to make your life better. Tami shares her experiences and perspective about thriving in a man’s world, building character, the resilience and tenacity of the human spirit, taking risks, and the power of adventure. With her unique background and engaging style, Tami will help you conquer your world!

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Episode 9: Ninja Body Talk

The way you stand, walk and move communicates to the world what kind of person you are, and what kind of day you’re having. People pay attention to your body language more than you think they do, and it leaves a lasting first impression. Even more important is the fact that the way you carry yourself can make you a desirable target for a potential attacker. Or not.

Perpetrators are looking for an easy target. If you stand, walk, and move like a ninja, you present yourself as a strong, confident person, and less likely to be target for an attacker. Especially if you look like someone who would fight back. Attackers are bullies, and one thing they do not want is someone who looks like they would present a challenge.

Download this episode to discover how to step out in the world with strength and confidence, and how not to be a target for the bad guys out there. And then please share these tips with your friends, loved ones, and especially your children. Together we can make the world a safer place.

Episode 1: Welcome to The FemiNinja Project!

Exactly one year ago I entered a podcasting contest. At the time, I had no idea what a podcast was, or why I would possibly want one. I entered the contest anyway.

Eight anxiety-filled weeks later and overcoming multiple steep learning curves, the contest was over. I didn’t win, but I was invited to join the platform anyway. I am now flying solo, re-branding the show, and creating a community of like-minded women and men who are dedicated to restoring human dignity and helping people of all ages and walks of life unleash their personal power.

In this first episode, you’ll hear about how (and why) I began training in an ancient Japanese martial art called Ninpo Tai Jutsu, the Art of the Ninja. As a matter of fact, you’ll learn more about me than I ever wanted anyone to know. But, it’s time for me to share my story and stop hiding in the shadows.

I also will share many of the ninja secrets, tips, and tricks I learned in my training that you can apply in every single aspect of your life to keep you safe, strong, establish clear boundaries, and be healthy in body, mind, and spirit. And all without spending 14 years in a smelly dojo getting smacked around by a bunch of sweaty men. I took the hits so you wouldn’t have to. You’re welcome.

Never underestimate the strength and power you have deep inside of you. My mission is to help you unleash that power, Discover that it IS possible to look like a woman, act like a lady, move like a ninja and think like a warrior. And remember, men are always welcome on The FemiNinja Project. After all, I would not be here today if it were not for the many magnificent men in my life.

I am grateful to each and every one of them, and I am grateful to you for listening to the podcast, and starting your own journey into the Art of the Ninja. Sayonara!

Don’t Fear the 5-0

A lot of my young friends are getting ready to turn the big 5-0. Meh-heh-heh. I laugh because none of them seem very happy about it. As a matter of fact, some of them even act like it’s the end of the world. As a deliriously happy person over fifty, all I can say to them is “Buck up, Buttercup!”

Turning 50 is NOT the end of the world. As far as I’m concerned, turning 50 was the best thing that ever happened to me. To be honest, my 30s were a bit of a nightmare. My 40s were even worse. There were times I didn’t even think I would make it to 50, and neither did a lot of my friends.

But, for some reason, I figured if I could make it to the big 5-0, maybe things would get better. For once in my life I was right. It was almost like magic happened. I felt like I was finally comfortable in my own skin. The nagging and sabotaging negative self-talk that plagued me all of my adult life finally fell silent. Don’t get me wrong–it still does rear its ugly head every now and again. But at least I recognize it before it gets out of control and I can tell it to kindly shut up and mind its own business. In a loving way, of course.

Once I hit 50, I felt happier, more content, and less stressed over the little things. I learned that it was okay to walk away from “friendships” that weren’t working for me. I learned to like myself more, and to be my own best friend. My 50s were so great that when the big 6-0 came creeping up on me, I ran toward it with arms open wide, ready to embrace whatever came next.

So, if you are turning 50 soon, stop worrying about it. It will give you frown lines, and laugh lines are far more attractive. Besides, the best is yet to come. Embrace it.

The Debut Of The FemiNinja

Well, the results are in. After spending most of my summer deeply immersed in a podcasting contest, I finally got the news. I am thrilled and delighted to be one of four winners, and my new show, The FemiNinja has officially launched last week.  Eee-ha! I think that’s pretty good, considering that the reason I entered the contest was simply to have the opportunity to (maybe) meet the woman who was running the contest (someday).

Well, not only did I get my wish, I got a whole lot more than I had bargained for at the same time. As one of the podcasters, I am responsible for providing 2 episodes a week full of bad-ass content on a variety of different topics. The FemiNinja is about personal empowerment, strength, grace, confidence, health, fitness, standing your ground, finding your voice, living large and loving life. Because living well and looking good is the way of The FemiNinaj!.

I wanted to say that living well and looking good is the best revenge, but not everyone got the message. However, a few people did, and I’m thinking those are the ones with their our amazing stories and bad-ass content to share. I’m hoping to get some of them on my show for interviews.

My first official show was the story about how I broke up with my BFF of 30 years. Yeah. It was really awkward, but it just had to be done for my own health and well-being.

Like I said, I certainly got a whole lot more than I bargained for! So far I have talked to her on the phone several times, met her in person, been to her house, and had lunch with her and the rest of the team of The Ladies Chit Chat Club.

Perhaps I need to set my sights a little higher in the future.

No You Can’t–Or Yes You Can

Have you ever wanted to try something new, or do something different and exciting, and were told, “No, you can’t?” Perhaps it was pursuing a dream, achieving a goal, or changing a career, and were told, “No, you can’t?”

I was born and raised in a small steel town in Western Pennsylvania, which is why I live in Denver. Nah….I’m just joking. More or less. My hometown was a great place to grow up, especially when I was a kid. We were all living the American Dream, and it was wonderful.

However, I wanted more out of life than what my town had to offer. I always wondered what it would be like to get out on my own, see the world, and make a life for myself away from the safety net of family and everything that was familiar to me.

During my senior year in college I decided to do just that. When I announced my plans to move to Denver, my friends and family were shocked. I was bombarded by well-meaning (but misguided) people who told me “No, you can’t.” Denver was too far away. It was too dangerous. I wasn’t smart enough, or strong enough to make it on my own. The list went on and on.

However, the most persuasive argument came from a guy I was dating, who told patiently explained, “You can’t go to Denver, because you have to get married. And since you have to marry someone, it might as well be me.” That convinced me. Two days after I graduated college I was halfway to Denver before the ink on my diploma even had a chance to dry. So much for “No, you can’t.”

The point is, there will always be people who will try to hold you back, keep you from pursuing your dreams, or simply tell you, “No, you can’t.” It’s your job to smile, nod your head, walk away, and do whatever it is you want to do. Because you can.

The Power of Grace….

Grace. It’s such a beautiful word. Just the sound of it brings forth a sense of ease, elegance, and peace. Who wouldn’t want to experience grace? Maybe we felt like we had it at some point but lost it along the way. (I don’t know what happened to it….I know I left it around here somewhere). Perhaps we feel like we have been looking for it all of our lives. It’s possible that we don’t even know what we’re looking for, but intuitively know that something is missing. What is grace, anyway?

In my mind, grace is a feeling. It is a sense of confidence and well-being. It is about having a strong sense of self-awareness, and being comfortable in your own skin. You know how to set personal boundaries and how to cultivate healthy relationships. You respect yourself. You have the flexibility to move through life with an effortless flow, even when the going gets tough.

One of my favorite quotes is from a remarkable man named Moshe Feldenkrais. He said, “What I am after is not flexible bodies, but flexible brains. What I am after is to return each person to their human dignity.” Ahh, grace. It is a lovely word, and a powerful one as well. It’s also a wonderful feeling–one that returns you to your strength, power, and human dignity.

It was through life’s trial and tribulations and the most difficult chapters in my life that I discovered the power of grace. I will admit that it hadn’t always been easy. But I did find it, and I sure like the way it feels. And I hope I don’t lose it like I lose my car keys. Because, there is incredible power and grace in each and every one of us. As well as human dignity.

Toastmasters, Table Topics, and the Talk of the Town

Table topics. It was a term I had never heard before. At least not until I attended my first Toastmaster’s meeting six weeks ago. I was planning on visiting a few different clubs, just like the website recommended, and see which one was a good fit for me. I was also planning on keeping my mouth shut until I felt comfortable around the members.

This is probably hard to believe, but I always get nervous when I meet people for the first time. Especially in a professional setting like a networking or business group. The thought of going to a Toastmasters meeting filled me with anxiety, even though the website made it clear that I didn’t need to participate in any capacity. I was welcome just to observe.

However, I was still a bundle of nerves when I got in my car to drive to the meeting site. I should mention that I also get high anxiety when I am going to a new destination. I calmed myself down, reminding myself that the meeting location was only about ten minutes from my house. What could possibly go wrong?

I got road raged on the way to the meeting. It wasn’t too serious, but it was enough to shred what was left of my frail confidence and rattle my tattered nerves even more. I almost turned around to go home and hide under my bed. But then I realized this jerk would have achieved his goal. So, I put on my big girl pants and headed to the meeting location.

I pulled up in front of a large, austere, and intimidating office building. Once again I wondered if I should just turn around and go home. Hiding under my bed seemed like a pretty good idea right then, especially after enjoying a nice, relaxing Chardonnay. I took a deep breath and got out of the car.

There was a sign in the lobby instructing visitors to check in on the 6th floor. I took the elevator and landed on the 6th floor just as a major hot flash hit. I walked into a small group of strangers red-faced and sweating. What a way to make an entrance! I wished I had gone home.

Until the meeting started. What a great group of people, and so much fun! I actually relaxed and began enjoying myself. Finally, they introduced something called Table Topics. Volunteers are asked a random question, and are given one-two minutes to answer it. It challenges your ability to think on your feet and come up with an engaging topic as well. To add to the challenge, the rest of the group votes on who gave the best talk.

Two people volunteered. When they finished, the Toastmaster asked for another volunteer. No one spoke up. Everyone looked around the room. Throwing caution to the wind, I volunteered. When I was done, we voted. I was feeling pretty proud of myself just for getting up in front of the group, but I almost fell out of my chair when it was announced that I won first place for best Table Topics! I got a ribbon and everything.

I participated in Table Topics the following meeting. And won the prize again. The following meeting, I won again. What a way to gain some confidence! All three of those ribbons are hanging on my wall in my office next to my desk where I can see them everyday.

Those ribbons represent how I went from being terrified to being the talk of the town. Or at least around the conference table. I learned a lot from that first day. First of all, don’t let a bully get in the way of your goal, even if he does road rage you. Next, don’t judge a building by it’s cover. A cold building can be warm and welcoming inside. I also learned not to worry so much, but we’ll see how that goes. Finally, I learned that when you are yourself and you speak from the heart, magic happens. Don’t you agree?

Teaching Bullies Better Manners

I detest bullies. In my humble opinion they are sniveling little cowards with no manners or sense of human decency. They pick on those they perceive as weak, vulnerable, or helpless. If only we could teach bullies better manners, I do believe that the world would be a better place. And I believe we can.

I recently taught a self-defense class for women and girls. There were several grown women as well as two petite and quiet teen-aged girls attending the class. Well, at least one of the girls were quiet. The other one was a lot more verbose and outgoing. They were sisters, and they were adorable. They were in the class accompanied by their grandmother, who thought it would be a beneficial experience for all of them. She was right about that!

Although it usually takes awhile for ladies to get comfortable in a self-defense class, this group quickly got into the spirit of the class, and started to have some fun with it. However, I noticed that the quiet teenager hung back and silently watched the rest of us as we played with a few techniques and walked through several different scenarios. I thought she was just shy, so I decided to engage with her and make her feel more comfortable.

I caught her eye and made an effort to draw her into the class. I usually don’t focus on bullies or anti-bullying in women’s self defense classes, since we focus more on random attacks and “what-if” situations. But, for some reason, I said to her, “Let’s pretend that someone is picking on you at school…” Before I could finish, she shot a look at her grandmother. After a few moments of silence, her grandmother said, “That’s exactly what’s happening.”

I thought blood was going to shoot out of my eyes. Just the thought that a bully (or bullies) were picking on this adorable young girl enraged me. I wished I could go to school with her the next day, stand in front of her, and make them go through me before they could get to her. Instead, I continued teaching from a slightly different perspective, making sure that I kept this girl front and center.

Pretty soon, something remarkable happened. She began standing taller (all five feet of her), and started looking us all in the eye. She paid closer attention to what we were doing and got a lot more talkative, although not nearly as loquacious as her sister. Eventually I slid up beside her and whispered, “You’re getting it now, aren’t you?”

I wish you could have seen the look she gave me. She had a gleam in her eye and a knowing smile on her beautiful face. As a matter of fact, she actually glowed with a wisdom well beyond her years. She nodded her head and replied, “Oh, yeah. I get it.” I wanted to weep with joy. 

For the next several days I could not get this girl and the bullies out of my head. I wondered if the lessons she learned that evening had any impact on her and her situation at school. Two weeks later I finally got my answer.

Her grandmother sent me a beautiful email thanking me for teaching the class. She also wanted me to know her grand-daughter told her that one single class changed her life forever. She was no longer having problems with bullies and was enjoying going to school again. Or at least, as much as any teenager enjoys school.

I cried when I read the email. As a matter of fact, to this day I cannot tell the story without crying. It’s a little embarrassing, because as a rule I do not cry in public, although I seem to be getting pretty good at it lately. Especially when I repeat the story of the petite and precious teenager who was being picked on in school, but found her strength and confidence in one two-hour long self-defense class.

The one thing I would love to know, but probably never will, was how the whole thing went down. I would have giving anything to see how she stood her ground. I really would have loved to see how her tormenter responded. Especially since I know it was done in a non-violent manner. 

Like I said, bullies are cowards. All you have to do is look them in the eye, stand your ground, and walk tall. Even if you are only five feet tall, you look like a giant. And you get to teach them better manners, which not only changes your life, but changes theirs as well. It’s a beautiful thing, don’t you agree?

There’s a Warrior in All of Us

I began my journey into the world of martial arts twelve years ago at the tender young age of 47. I guess this means I am admitting how old I am, even though I know that a lady never tells her age. However, no one has ever accused me of being a lady. Actually, someone once did a long time ago, but that’s a story for another day.

Anyway, it takes a tremendous amount of courage for a woman to walk into a testosterone-infested, male-dominated dojo and give strange men permission to attack them. It also requires an enormous amount of trust. I had neither, and there are still times when I have issues with both. However, what I lack in courage and trust, I have always been able to compensate with humor and false bravado.

When I began training, there wasn’t a high ranking female student at the dojo that could show me the ropes, be my role model, and teach me how to deal with a room full of Neanderthals. Even though all of the guys were very respectful and supportive, it didn’t keep me from being terrified and feeling like I was in a room full of Fred Flintstone and his bowling buddies.

They would take turns teaching me the secrets of the art of the Ninja, and there were even days when they actually argued over who would “get” to work with me. I thought they were just trying to impress me while they taught me the basic skills of a white belt. It didn’t take long for me to recognize that even on my worst day, I looked prettier and smelled better than any of the men they were used to rolling around with on the mat. Besides, I washed my gi after every class.

Since I didn’t have an upper ranking female student to emulate, I had to fend for myself and make up the rules as I went along. I told the guys that they were permitted to grab me, punch me, kick me, sweep me, throw me, and pin me to the ground. But under no circumstances were they allowed to mess up my make-up or chip my nail polish. After all, a girl’s got to set some boundaries, and that would just make me mad. Besides, it would be uncivilized.

Eventually, they got used to having me around the dojo, and I seemed to take on a role that was a combination of mascot, little sister, wise woman and awesome sex goddess. However, I still wasn’t in it for the long haul. I figured I would take a few classes, learn a few techniques and move on with my life.

But, something funny happened along the way. I fell in love with the art and I fell in love with the training. And I really, really fell in love with the sense of strength, grace, and confidence that I developed from training. With every milestone I achieved, there was another one waiting to be accomplished. Every time I felt I had reached my limit and wanted to quit, something kept drawing me back.

Every so often I have a test of faith, even at this point in my training. I’ll hear a voice in my head saying “Quit. Just quit.” But the truth is I can’t quit, and I won’t. Because martial arts isn’t just something I do; it’s something I am. So, I tell that little voice to shut up and mind its own business. It’s not that I have anything to prove, except for a point. And that point is, there is a Warrior in all of us.